Other issues

What other officers have powers in relation to schools?

In addition to the Ombudsman and the Privacy Commissioner, two other officers have powers in relation to schools, these are: health and safety inspectors and the Children's Commissioner.

Functions and power of health and safety inspectors

Inspectors and health and safety medical practitioners appointed under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 are given wide powers. It is important for principals and trustees to understand their functions and powers.

Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 subpart 10 – Legislation website

Obstructing or failing to cooperate with a health and safety inspector or medical practitioner in the exercise of his or her powers and functions could result in an employer being prosecuted and a substantial fine being imposed. 

Inspectors may, at any reasonable time, enter a workplace and inspect, examine, or test equipment or conditions. They may also take photographs and require documents to be produced or statements to be given.

In the school context, inspectors may be asked to inspect (usually as a result of a complaint) such things as swimming pools – including the use of chemicals, technology workshops, footpaths and playing areas, adventure playgrounds, and building sites on school grounds.

Inspectors may issue an improvement notice or a prohibition notice.

Further information

Health and safety practical guide – Ministry of Education website

Functions and powers of the Children’s Commission

The Children’s Commissioner and Office advocates for children, with particular emphasis on assisting New Zealand to fulfil its obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

The Children’s Commissioner has wide powers to investigate matters relating to the rights, welfare and interests of children in New Zealand.

Children's Commissioner Act 2003 – Legislation website

Sections 12(1)(a) and 13(1)(a) of the Act give the commissioner the responsibility for investigating any decision or recommendation made, or any act done or omitted in respect of any child, in that child's personal capacity, by any person or body other than a court or tribunal.

An enquiry or complaint can be made by writing to, phoning, or visiting the Human Rights Commission. The service is confidential and free. A complaint can be dealt with if it falls within one of the areas and one of the grounds covered by the Act.

Mediators from the commission try to help the complainant and the person (normally the school) whose conduct the complaint is about, to resolve the dispute. A range of mediation techniques are used, from face-to-face meetings to exchanging letters.

Children’s Commissioner and Office

Updated: June 2017

Tell a colleague | Back to top